Written by December Ndhlovu
On the 19th of September 2020, myself and 4 of the River and Illegal Waste cleaners, who are also aspiring farmers, had the privilege of attending a Seed Saving workshop organized by Zingela Ulwazi (ZU) and hosted by Rooiboklaagte B Community Garden, which is situated on the outskirts of Bushbuckridge. The workshop was attended by 39 women from Zingela Ulwazi’s Permaculture Explorers, and 3 people from Mpumalanga Water Caucus. Permaculture Explorers is a group of mostly unemployed women from the Orpen RDP village on the outskirts of Acornhoek, next to the Kruger National Park (KNP). There were a total of 46 people. Anna Molala who is a Permaculture Educator for ZU, taught about the importance of saving our own seeds rather than buying from supermarkets and shops. Seed saving allows people to have variety of crops and it helps with continuation of seed plants.
The seed saving workshop comes at a time when it is needed most. During the COVID-19 lockdown, it became crystal clear that the government in South Africa was in no way close to satisfying its needy people during critical times. The food insecurity status warrants drastic action to be taken, and seed saving is one these crucial steps leading up to food security for all.
Climate change and global warming are a serious threat to food security and water access. Seed saving for food security and water harvesting are probably the most practical way of responding to our practical problems. It is a life changing and value adding practice for home food growers.
The wake of the COVID-19 pandemic virus has surely unleashed a wave of fear and panic because of its severity and the way media and governments responded to it. It is clear that for us to survive, we need to be self-sustenance minded. We need to learn to fend for ourselves instead of relying on others.
Seeds are like women, very important because they bring life. They are critically important for reproduction and the continuation of species and all forms of life. Human beings are dependent on seed plants for the qualities and developments that they provide, which include food and medicine. Many societies eat, almost exclusively, vegetarian fare and depend solely on seed plants for their nutritional needs. The medicinal properties of seed plants have been known to human societies since ancient times.
Why seed saving is important?
Seed saving is a direct action to protect plant biodiversity and it helps with regional adaptation of plants. Seed Security: By saving your seeds, you control your seed and therefore your food supply—you aren’t depending on seed stores or catalogues for difficult to find seed. Hundreds of excellent plant varieties have been discontinued as big corporations have consolidated the seed industry and focused on more profitable varieties. Half of the vegetables grown today have no commercial sources—you have to get them through seed trades.
Regional Adaptation: Most commercially available seed has been selected because it performs fairly well across the entire country if given synthetic fertilizers. But when you save seed from your own best performing plants, on your land and in your own ecosystem, you gradually develop varieties better adapted to your own soil, climate, and growing conditions
How to save seeds?
Seeds can be saved individually and as a community of farmers in a community seed-bank. It is important to wash seeds with warm water, dry them in a shade, name the container or holder for easy identification and also put date and other related data.
Apart from seed saving, compost making and seed harvesting, Zingela Ulwazi organized a Moringa recipe and dish competition, where participants prepared food with Moringa. The winner, Mamcy Mathebula, got herself a wheel barrow and in 2nd place was Ester Mashale who won a hosepipe. Grecious Mathebula took third place and won a container to spray Effective MIcrobes into her garden, to enrich the soil.
When you save seeds, you’re joining a chain of farmers, gardeners, and seed enthusiasts, a practice that dates back to the ancient times.